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Thursday, February 4, 2016

Well, Here's Another Nice Mess You've Gotten Me Into, Sisyphus!


“The gods had condemned Sisyphus to ceaselessly rolling a rock to the top of a mountain, whence the stone would fall back of its own weight. They had thought with some reason that there is no more dreadful punishment than futile and hopeless labor.” – Albert Camus “The Myth of Sisyphus”

My first exposure to existential philosophy came not in the classroom, not in the library, but on a movie screen; my teachers were not learned professors, but the lovable oafs: Arthur Stanley Jefferson and Norvell Hardy – better known to the world as Laurel and Hardy. I may have been only 10 years old, but even then I was beginning to understand that life is tragic and absurd, and that that is beautiful.

Their 1932 film “The Music Box” (for which they won an Oscar) perfectly captures the story the existential hero, Sisyphus - condemned to an eternity of absurdity. It’s a simple story, one nearly as old as human history: the hero must move a heavy object to the top of the hill, whereupon it immediately rolls back down. Repeat ad infinitum, ad absurdum.

We may laugh at the slapstick antics of Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy, but it should be a reverent laugh. Somewhere inside ourselves, we know that their struggle is ours as well.

“The struggle itself toward the heights is enough to fill a man's heart. One must imagine Sisyphus happy.” – Albert Camus “The Myth of Sisyphus”



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